Free EU mobile roaming…almost

Today is the day when you’re now free to roam across the EU with no additional charges. This has been a long time in the works, but finally you can concentrate on your business (or your holiday) without worrying about racking up enormous charges – the rates you pay will be the same as if you were at home in the UK.

So why the ‘almost’? Well, firstly, it’s worth noting that there are some exceptions to the rule which won’t impact on most people, but it’s worth being aware of all the same. EU operators are within their rights under their agreement to impose a ‘fair use’ limit on data – so if you are on a plan with either unlimited data or data at very low rates, then there is an outside chance that you could be penalised. The official wording is: “Mobile operators may apply fair, reasonable and proportionate control mechanisms to avoid abusive use of these rules.” So if you’re a very heavy data user it could be worth checking to see if the operators in your destination countries have set a data limit. In any case, excess data charges are capped at €7.70 plus tax (this will drop each year until it reaches €2.50 in 2022).

Secondly, for the roaming charges to be waived, you must be resident in your home country for a minimum of eight months per year. Obviously for most business or personal travellers this isn’t an issue (who wouldn’t object to a holiday lasting more than four months?!) – but for anyone, for example, on a foreign contract which lasts for more than four months then this could be an issue.

A full explanation of limits, charges and definitions can be found here.

And thirdly, this is only an interim situation. With the UK due to leave the EU in 2019, we may lose these rights completely. Our wonderful politicians are giving the impression that they haven’t quite worked out the fundamental issues of the single market, freedom of movement or the economic consequences of Brexit, so it’s unlikely that they have considered the impact of Brexit on mobile roaming! Enjoy the current situation for as long as you can!